So how do you work out your Core Values?
For those who have not read my previous post on this topic, please click on this link "My Take on Happiness", and have a read of it first before going further. It will be more meaningful to you.
As previously mentioned, your core values are often "subconscious", so one of the best ways to know what your core values are is to look at your reaction to things and then ask yourself, "Why?" until you get to the bottom of it ie your "core value". In clinical practice, we call this, "digging deeper".
For example, if you get very irritated or angry when things are not done correctly or "perfectly", you can then ask yourself...
Why?.....Because it makes sense to do things well.
Okay why?.....Because, if things are not done well, then things might go wrong, and if things do go wrong, then I will be a failure and that really freaks me out!!!
Hence, the core value here might be "Things has to be done perfectly because if things go wrong, I will be a failure".
If you get very angry and upset when someone criticize you even in a constructive sense, then one of your core values might be, "Iam not good enough".
If you get extremely upset when you see unfairness in society, then one of your core values might be, "Things should be fair".
If you get severely insecure when you start a long term relationship, then one of your core values might be, "Iam not good enough" or "Important people in my life will leave me in the end".
If you always feel suspicious of people, then one of your core values might be, "You cannot trust anyone".
If you seem to have a comfortable and stable life, but are still stress and unhappy, then one of your core values might be, "I need growth in my life" or "Life should be fun".
Now remember, core values are neither good or bad. Of course, it can be good or it can be very bad depending on certain situations. For example, if I was a medical student in a clinical placement, then it may be useful to have the core value that "Iam not good enough" in that particular situation. This will help me to be "safe" and helps me to learn more and not to be overconfident. However, if I apply this belief to other areas of my life in which Iam competent, then it will bring me insecurity, indecisiveness, and procrastination.
So in essence, once you know what your core values are, you will be able to manage them more effectively and that is, to apply them appropriately in some situations, and to "turn them off" in other situations where it might not be so helpful. This is a part of becoming more "mindful".
The second way is to use the hypothetical "genie question".
Ask yourself, "If I was a genie, then what kind of job will I grant myself?"
? I need a job that appreciate and respect me
? I need autonomy
? It has to be fun
? I need support and opportunity to grow
? I need at least $70000/year
? I need some flexibility for my family
? I do not want to be on call etc etc etc
These are your core values about work.
Then you can create a list for your relationship and it might look like this.
? Loyalty and trust is the most important for me
? Good communication is essential
? There needs to be connectedness
? Family has to come first
? My partner needs to be independent
? My partner needs to get on and respect my family
? I need some space for "me time" and times for my friends etc etc etc
And you can then repeat this exercise for other aspects of your life eg community service, spiritual growth etc.
Once you are more aware of your core values, you can then become more aware of the various areas of your life that are not being fulfilled, and hence, will have the opportunity to rectify that, or learn to accept it better through understanding. You will also notice that some of your core values might be in conflict with each other for example, the one where you believe that family has to come first, but you also believe that your "me time" is also very important. They often say, "You cannot have your cake and eat it too", so in these circumstances, you will need to prioritize your core values.
Hopefully, I have highlighted the importance of knowing your core values and how this can impact on your happiness.
Dr Vin Tran
MBBS FRACGP University of Qld